Joanna Lipari


Activities of Daily Living

When her Medicare card arrived with a special senior citizen “invisibility cloak,” one woman fought back. Incorporating innovative animation, Activities of Daily Living uses hilarious and poignant stories to weave together the threads of a life lived – and one that is hardly invisible. From noted LA stage director and TV writer, Kevin Larkin: “Proving that life is not just wasted on the young, Joanna Lipari’s brilliant solo show, Activities of Daily Living, guided by Beth Dunnington’s spot-on direction, faces the hard realities of (dare I say) aging? Lipari’s journey will stay with you. It is as much your story as hers.”

Written and performed by Joanna Lipari

Animation by Acme Filmworks
Anna Bron (Animation Director) and
Ron Diamond (Producer)
Directed by: Beth Dunnington
Technical Director: Keith Stevenson
Light Design: Leigh Allen
Sound Design: Chris Moscatiello
Graphic Design: Michelle Hanzelova
Producer: Elina de Santos

The Genesis of an Idea

When my marriage fell apart In 2009, I wrote about it in my first memoir story for Rogue Machine Theatre’s Rant&Rave. The story “Divorce is Hilarious, After You Stop Crying” got 14k views. Then the following year, I wrote another story called “Nuns, Jews & Negroes” for RMT’s Rant&Rave and that story got 31,000 views on YouTube. So, then I thought, “Well, maybe I should keep writing stories” and I joined an ongoing workshop called The Big Island Writer’s Workshop run by the fabulous Beth Dunnington. After a couple of years, we were going to collect the stories and publish a book. But then, Beth said, “What do you most want to be?” and I said, “an actor.” And we decided to create a one woman show. That is Activities of Daily Living.


So here’s the story:

I knew absolutely NOTHING about animation. How it’s developed, what to develop…what did I want, where should I go?

I started looking to animation departments at universities. UCLA, CalArts… And I started watching animation. A lot of short subjects. And I called folks.

As Beth and I continued on developing the script, we talked about what kind of visuals we would want. I knew I wanted the animation almost like an “acting partner” but I didn’t want to end up narrating the animation. I didn’t want any of the characters to talk, but I did want to interact with them.

So I kept researching and talking to folks. We did almost hire one small animation studio. We had a meeting with the owner and a creative director…and that’s where Beth and I learned more about storyboarding what we wanted. But the vibe just wasn’t right. The creative director talked down to us…the vibe was awful. But still it seemed like it might work…until we got the contract which was simply a rip off. So we walked away.

I was so discouraged and nearly gave up on the idea, but just pushed on, talking to more and more people.

Eventually, I was guided to Ron Diamond, Acme Filmworks ( Beth and I met with him and explained the project. He was intrigued and suggested a young Canadian animator, Anna Bron. ( We loved her work, and I made a deal with Acme Filmworks for Anna as the animator and Ron as the animation producer.

So Anna and I began to talk. Her first style “inspiration” (see below) didn’t hit the mark. It was a bit scary – skinny people and sharp edges. She did a concept for Quatro Angeli… also a bit scary. The angels were so thin and sort of gruesome.

So we continued talking and looking at style references. I sent her some research about my kindergarten and the elves I had made as a kid, and soon Anna and I were on the same page.

Anna put a little figure of me on a “virtual” stage and we both began seeing how this could work…

She would send a “breakdown” where I could see how this would unfold on stage…it was challenging but so much fun.

Beth, Ron, Anna and I would schedule 2-3 hour telephone consultations where we would go over the project…and step by step, drawing by drawing, it started coming together.

So much time and energy went to getting things just right. It’s funny now to think about how some things that seem so simple took such effort on all our parts.

One funny example is the elf beards in ELF FACTORY. Here’s an early style drawing and final version:

The beards looked more like bank robber masks! It was so funny. We lowered the beards, raised them, tried them thinner, then thicker…finally, what we realized it was the lines on TOP of the beards that made them seem more like a scarf! Once we figured that out, well, it seemed so obvious! While we were at it, we also made their eyes bigger and then we had it right. Working with Ron, Anna and Beth on this animation is one of the most rewarding experience of my life….